Let's Go Outback Tonight

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of the chain restaurant. I’m a strong believer in the slow food movement. I like my restaurants to have unique dishes made from fresh ingredients, and I like to know exactly where I am rather than feeling as if I could be in any city in the world, in a carbon-copy of a restaurant.

That said, sometimes a girl just needs a good, cheap steak. Now Chris is not a big red-meat-eater, so I don’t like to go all out to a classic steakhouse when I have that craving. Instead, I give in to the big corporate monster and go to Outback Steakhouse. I usually sit at the bar, chat with the amiable bartender, and dig in to what I consider the perfect steak: the 9-oz. Outback Special, which the menu can justifiably say is “a center cut sirloin, seasoned and seared to perfection.” They’ve got something in their “secret 17-spice recipe” that just hits the mark.

Consistency is key at corporate restaurants, and here is where Outback shines. It is only at this particular restaurant that I can be the anti-me; I top off going to a chain restaurant with ordering the exact same thing every single time I go. It’s against everything I stand for, but I do it all the same. How can I not? It’s a thing of perfection. My steak is always the right size and is always cooked exactly as I ordered it. These guys know what they’re doing.

Many people feel that the sides make the meal. It’s a close call at Outback. The special comes with a choice of sides, and I always choose the steamed vegetables, which are a nice medley of not-mushy carrots, broccoli, zucchini and snowpeas. The house salad with bleu cheese dressing is my other choice. They make their own croutons, and they are to die for. They also make their own salad dressing, and I find theirs to be among the best I’ve had, creamy but with plenty of bleu cheese chunks. Other ingredients include chopped cucumbers, red onions, shredded cheese and ripe red tomatoes, not to mention a nice iceberg/romaine mix. It’s really a great salad.

If I had to make one complaint, it would be the wine list. It’s not a great one, to be sure. Although there are several wines by the glass, none of them is one that can stand up to the seasonings of the steak. In fact, last night, I had a particularly terrible glass of Pinot Noir that tasted as if it had been opened six months ago. I switched to the decent-enough Black Opal Shiraz and was a little happier with that.

Back on a more positive note, I need to talk for a minute about the bread. They give you a mini-loaf of pumpernickel that is warm and delicious. But what’s better is their butter. It’s creamy and sweet, with a hint of honey. It’s so good that although I order the veggies to make it look like I’m eating something relatively healthy, I end up spreading that buttery goodness all over the vegetables. Yummy.

Speaking of unhealthy, I have reached the dessert paragraph. Sidney’s Sinful Sundae does it for me every time. Creamy vanilla ice cream rolled in toasted coconut, topped with what has to be homemade hot fudge, sliced strawberries and fresh, coat-the-roof-of-your-mouth whipped cream. Sinful is right. It is just soooooo good.

Chain restaurant, yes, but perfect every time. And no, they didn't pay me to say all these things.

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